Something to Chew On

When she was a kid, torture for one 23andMe customer was having to sit at the dinner table listening to her father chew his food.Little Girl Eats Popcorn

This was long before she knew the scientific name for what she was experiencing. She’d just grip her fork and try to fight the fury bubbling up inside as her dad finished his meal.

In a 23andMe community forum on the condition, the customer said she’d only known two other people with the problem; one was her daughter, the other her half-brother.

Misophonia — from the Greek meaning hatred of sound — is characterized by feelings of rage triggered by people munching, chewing, sipping and chomping their food. And it turns out there’s a genetic component to the little understood condition, according to research by 23andMe.

Many of those who have misophonia are unaware that it is a condition at all. They just know the sound of someone eating popcorn, or crunching down on an apple or smacking their lips sparks an overriding feeling of anger.

It actually isn’t just the sound of eating; a variety of sounds can spark rage in those with the condition, including the sound of other people breathing. That can make interpersonal relationships a bit difficult especially if you have to ask another person to, you know, stop breathing.

Unusual as it sounds, misophonia is more common than one would imagine. In an internal study of about 80,000 customers who have consented to research on the subject, 23andMe researchers found that about 20 percent said they were “filled with rage” by the sound of others eating. The researchers also found that the condition was more commonly reported by women than men.

And the study identified a specific variant associated with misophonia among people of European ancestry. The variant, rs2937573, is near the gene TENM2, which plays a role in brain development.

Gene SNP Genotype Sensitivity to the Sound Of Other People Eating
TENM2 rs2937573 GG Higher Odds
TENM2 rs2937573 AG Average Odds
TENM2 rs2937573 AA Lower Odds

  • Jenny

    23andme – if you are looking for more people to join the study I would do so gladly. I”m VERY high on the Misophonia spectrum and my Great Grandmother was as well. Would LOVE to contribute!

    • 23blog

      Hi Jenny,
      Thank you for your offer. You can contribute more broadly simply by consenting to research. I don’t know if we will be doing additional studies on misophonia, but contributing allows for our researchers to do these kinds of quick association studies or allow them to quickly replicate other published studies.

  • I would deeply appreciate it if you would cover something more useful and actionable, such as the common methylation SNPs in MTHFR genes that weaken the ability to methylate or clear toxins, and therefore be less able to tolerate things like mercury from dental amalgam fillings or from fish. This is genetic information that would be important to research and highlight, as based on gene type, methylation defects and the metals and toxins that exploit them easily underlie 20%+ of chronic diseases, and perhaps much more as we age.

    • Lamech

      Apparently you are apart of the Lower Odds group

      • All I am saying is the Higher Odds group for mercury toxicity is huge, but there is a third rail around this issue thanks to the dental establishment, run by a patent holding organization. Just a question of attention by the good people at 23andMe.

    • Jonathan Marten

      Laura, I think you’re underestimating the importance of keeping the customers of 23&me engaged. It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing as ‘silly science’, and maybe it is. But silly isn’t bad – it’s relatable, easily understandable, and gives contributors something back that they find interesting. Toxin methylation might be useful, maybe even actionable, but I can tell you one thing for sure: unless you’re in the field, it’s boring. If you want people to keep taking part in these sorts of research projects you need to give them something *they* find interesting and useful. When they’re paying for the genotyping, ‘the greater good’ just isn’t going to cut it.

      Fortunately, the resources required to do a simple GWAS like this are negligible and don’t preclude doing both. Quick, fun phenotypes like this can keep attracting people to the project, while behind the scenes people are using the same genotype data to solve real medical problems.

      Since access to the data can be made available to anyone who has the funding, I suggest you contact 23&Me yourself and start the ball rolling! Although I’m not sure how mercury tolerance could be easily self-assessed.

      • A simple GWAS for N=1 or N=1 clinical practice is pretty doable. There are numerous tests for mercury toxicity much better than the standard blood and urine test which gives false negatives for everyone who bioaccumulates mercury, which greatly compounds the problem. Any functional MD or biologic dentist and many blogs and facebook groups can steer people to these tests, as can I. I work nonstop pro bono to raise awareness of the widespread but hidden health challenges of dental mercury toxicity, mold toxicity, and Lyme. There is no need for patented solutions so there is no money in it. There is only health.

    • MaisieMartin

      If you were affected, I don’t think you’d feel this way about misophonia.

      • Just a question of balance. You may also have mercury poisoning from any number of sources, and just don’t know it.

        • Hanna Peep


        • KaraJones

          Laura, Enough with your obnoxious and inappropriate comments. If you don’t have symptoms of misophonia, then shut up and get out of this comment thread. No one is interested in your ridiculous opinions. And you don’t belong here. Clearly you are a shining example of mercury poisoning turning you into a moron.

    • Tula

      And I would deeply appreciate it if you would have compassion for other people who suffer with this condition. You are applying your own needs and wants over others. It’s completely disrespectful and ignorant. I am personally grateful that 23andme has done the analysis to determine related genes and hope there will be a cure. And perhaps one day there will be a cure for the ignorance you are displaying as well as myriad other conditions.

  • Peter Beerli

    haha, Neanderthals hated chewers (GG) and Denisovans were OK (AA)

  • I was filled with rage by mercury poisoning from my dental fillings. As are many who find out the common causes of their chronic misery and mystery diseases. Many people are just slowly filled with disease, disability and dementia, as bioaccumulation of everyday toxins for those with methylation glitches fuels systemic inflammation, the root of chronic diseases throughout the body and brain.

    • Hanna Peep

      Off topic.

    • Hanna Peep

      You’re filled with something alright.

      • Please review the latest reports on this. McClatchy DC, Medscape and MD+DI Device
        Talk all report on FDA’s long-awaited Patient Safety Communication on dental amalgam, and HHS
        cover-up in January 2012.

  • Amy Tomlinson Nasca

    I have misophonia. Common everyday sounds will trigger an intense rage in me
    I am of German descent, born to a German mother &;adopted by American parents. I would love to participate in misophonia studies/research.

  • VSB

    I learned about misophonia from a New York Times article. Married to a wonderful man who fidgets constantly, taps his foot against furniture, drums his fingers on tables, whistles spontaneously, I would feel anger and annoyance along with shame and self-loathing, judging myself an intolerant, nasty person. It was a relief to discover that this was not a character flaw but a physiological response and now it’s easier for me to cope — and for him to help me!

  • PreciousUniqueSnowflake

    Oof, I have AA, lower odds, but I suffer greatly from misophonia, as does an aunt of mine. I wonder what else contributes.

  • Josh G

    Mind = Blown! I’m a GG, and yes it is irritating for me to hear any food related sounds.

  • littlejudy

    Is this already in our 23andMe profile?

    • 23blog

      We do not have a report on misophonia.

Return to top